Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté brought back more than memories from his foray into space tourism in 2009.

The CEO of the Montreal circus troupe took stunning photographs of the Earth from the International Space Station as he spent 10 days in orbit, 350 km above our planet.

Sixty of his photographs are on show in the exhibit Gaia, which opened Thursday evening at the Thompson Landry Gallery in Toronto.

Quebec City-born Laliberté also created a photo book, also called Gaia and published last year, that shows the beauty and fragility of the Earth from space.

A challenging shoot

Laliberté said he’s been carrying a camera since he was a teenager, but it was still a challenge to get the shots he wanted in space.

"You're riding at 25,000 km/h. You're taking pictures out of a small window. You're in [a] weightlessness situation where taking [a] position is not easy," he told CBC News on Thursday.

"The only advantage you have is those lenses that usually, on Earth, weigh 10 pounds weigh nothing up there. But you still have to manage to — from one eye — see your subject coming...adjusting your camera and then clicking." 

'I see people walk in and they just stop and they're humbled' —Joanne Thompson, gallery owner

Gallery owner Joanne Thompson said she believes Laliberté’s photos will resonate because they show a view that most people will never have themselves.

"I think a lot of times people think ‘Oh, it's a photograph. I can do that.’ But I see people walk in and they just stop and they're humbled by it," she said.

She added that while Laliberté’s long involvement with the Cirque shows he is a visual person, this exhibit shows a new creative side of him.

Experience 'a privilege'

Laliberté admits he still pinches himself to make sure he's not dreaming and actually experienced 11 days in space.

"Actually, I always say 'thank you' every morning that I wake up to life...it's such a privilege to be able to live that experience of going in space. I was number 540," he said.

"I wish that more people will be able to live this experience because it definitely [has] an impact on you to be able to see the universe [and] the planet from such a perspective."

Laliberté dedicated his spaceflight to raising awareness about water issues facing humankind. Proceeds from the sale of his photos and book benefit One Drop, a charity dedicated to providing clean water to people around the world.

"I believe I'm on a mission of contributing what I do in life to build a better world. This exposition, those pictures are all about that... to try and plant a seed and make people understand that if there's a paradise...this planet is definitely one of them," he said.

"It's just about trying to inspire [people] and make them understand that we need to take care of our planet if we want to have a future as the human species."